Our Sweet Boy Freddy woke up to a happy surprise. His friend Carly came over to bake with me Sunday morning. Much silliness ensued.
I told my friend William yesterday that I suffer from recipe brain. It’s a blessing, until it isn’t. It wakes me up, keeps me up, and seldom lets me rest. I see images, literally, of recipes, ideas for any ingredient I see, and how to take something I’ve made, a custard or a jam or a loaf of bread, say banana bread, and turn it into something else. So that’s what I’m up to today, sharing some of the thoughts that popped into my head when I used up some overripe bananas with Carly.
I think everyone should have one really good recipe for all of the basics. This banana bread is the best I’ve ever had. I may be a bit biased since it’s my great aunt’s recipe, which I’ve tweaked just a little over the years, but when I made it for a friend some years ago, she hunted all over the Twin Cities for it, thinking it had come from a pastry shop. It’s ultra moist—almost bread pudding-esque—sweet and homey.
This is how I remember my great aunt, whom I called Grandma Sherry: sweet, old school Catholic, the kind of person who dreamed of having a grand stone fireplace and who painted one on the wall of her modest house with little pots of color from the craft store. When she was older and I lived nearby, I used to bring her dinner every afternoon and then we’d have cocoa and a little chat. I learned that she was a feisty, daring young woman—a kind of uber-cool ingénue. She changed her name from Kaye to Sherry because she thought it more sophisticated, dropped out of school, and met her then-boyfriend Mac who worked on the railroad for late-night dates in the city. She’s pictured above on the right with my grandma. And here, the two of them off to my grandma’s wedding in St. Paul.
I like this bread best unadorned with a cold glass of milk. It’s the perfect after school nibble or mid-afternoon pick me up.
But it’s also nice as a simple teacake with a little Celtic Crossing frosting. (We added a few chocolate chips to a couple loaves just for Carly.)
And if the loaf has lasted more than ten minutes, it’s also delicious sliced and toasted with a bit of mascarpone laced with powdered sugar and Celtic Crossing liqueur.
When I’m feeling fancy, I might caramelize some bananas slices, add some whisky and extra butter to the pan and light it ablaze tableside to be spooned over the sautéed slices of bread. (Pyrotechnics not pictured.) A little plain whipped cream or whipped crème fraiche on top would be nice, too. If you refrigerate the banana bread before you make it this way, the contrast of temperatures is appealing, and the bread has an exceptionally creamy texture. Serve with a dram of whisky and toast to Grandma Sherry!
Yield: two loaves (I like to eat one loaf and pop the other in the freezer so that I can make an impromptu dessert later.)
¼ c. shortening (Don’t overthink it. Just plop it in.)
½ c. unsweetened applesauce
2 c. sugar
3 c. all purpose flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 c. milk (I use whole milk but any milk you have will work.)
1 t. vinegar
2 t. vanilla extract
3 large overripe bananas, mashed until they are liquid
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Grease and flour two bread pans.
- Mash the bananas until they are liquid.
- Cream the shortening and the sugar.
- Add the applesauce and mix thoroughly.
- Add the eggs and mix thoroughly.
- Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt.
- Add the vinegar to the milk and allow it to sit for a few moments.
- Add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk to the batter, mixing gently between additions. I add half the flour, then half the milk, then half the flour, then half the milk.
- Add the bananas and the vanilla and mix gently.
- Divide the batter evenly into two loaf pans and smooth the tops.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean. Do not overbake.
- Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the breads and remove them from their pans. Finish cooling on a rack. When cool, wrap tightly in cellophane and then foil.
This bread may be stored at room temperature, wrapped well, for several days. It is also delicious served cold from the refrigerator.
The bread may be wrapped in cellophane and then foil and stored in the freezer. Bring to room temperature on the countertop.
Celtic Crossing Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese
½ c. unsalted butter, softened
¼ c. Celtic Crossing liqueur
1 1/3 c. powdered sugar
- Mix all ingredients until creamy and smooth.
Sautéed Banana Bread
1 loaf banana bread, sliced
a knob of butter (or clarified butter if you have some), about 3T.
- In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add the banana bread slices in a single layer and fry lightly until golden brown.
- Flip the slices and fry the other side until golden brown.
This is delicious topped with Sweet Mascarpone with Celtic Crossing Liqueur or with Caramelized Bananas with Flaming Whisky Sauce and Whipped Cream or Whipped Crème Fraiche, all below. If you don’t want to fuss with these, it’s nice with a dusting of powdered sugar. I could go on all day, but let me just add that it’s also wonderful as the basis for bread pudding.
Sweet Mascarpone with Celtic Crossing Liqueur
8 ounces mascarpone
powdered sugar to taste, about ½ c.
a little dribble of vanilla extract, about 1 t.
a good dribble of Celtic Crossing Liqueur, about 3 T.
- Mix all ingredients until creamy and smooth.
You may substitute any liqueur that appeals to you, of course. A bit of orange zest might also make a nice addition.
Caramelized Bananas with Flaming Whisky Sauce
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
2 bananas, sliced
a good knob of butter, perhaps 3 T.
a generous sprinkle of brown sugar, about ¼ c.
a few glugs of whisky, about ¼ c.
- In a large sauté pan, melt the butter.
- Add the banana slices and the sugar.
- Cook until the sugar melts and the bananas take on a nice bit of color.
- Add the whisky and ignite it. (Be careful!)
- Continue to cook after the flames die down until the sauce is a nice syrupy consistency.
A few toasted pecans or walnuts or spiced nuts might make a nice garnish.
Simplest Whipped Cream or Whipped Crème Fraiche
1 c. cold heavy cream or crème fraiche
sugar to taste, perhaps ¼ c.
a little dribble of vanilla extract, perhaps 1 t.
You may add a dribble of any complimentary liqueur, too.
- Add the cream or crème fraiche, the sugar and the vanilla to a cold metal bowl.
- Whip the cream or crème fraiche until soft peaks form.